Chapter 27: Firebird
March 30, 1998
2:15 a.m. The Condo
*Running, looking back, not able to find him, child turning into alien, everything burning.*
Scully jerked awake, shaking, to find Tyler sitting up in the bed, watching her, forehead knitted. He reached out and put his palm on her cheek and said, “Up.”
She sat up, and glanced around the room. Mulder was still asleep on the other side of Tyler, and it took her a moment to realize what was wrong. The red glow from the corner, which had been on for a couple days, was gone. *Shit.*
Tyler cocked his head and said, “Shi?”
“No baby, that’s a mommy word.” *Can’t even swear in my head. Can’t ask why the light’s off. If it’s off, we’re being monitored.* She scooted off the bed, and Tyler crawled after her. She picked him up and set him in the crib, and said, “Mama’ll be back in a minute. I have to go potty.”
He pulled at his diaper.
She nodded. “I’ll help you in a minute.”
She went into the bathroom, used it, tried not to think about who might be watching, and as she came back into the bedroom, she snagged the fanny sack off the hook, picked Tyler up, and took him into the bathroom for a change. When they were done, she set him on the bed and then climbed in. She started to lie down again, but Tyler crawled up to her head, grabbed her hair, and pulled, saying, “Up.”
She yelped. “Hey! Stop that.”
Mulder rolled over. “What’s wrong?”
“He pulled my hair, and he keeps saying, ‘Up.’” She glanced at the clock. *Four weeks, this minute, we’ve been on this journey.*
Mulder looked at Tyler, frowned, and then said, “You want to go downstairs, kiddo?”
Tyler nodded and said, “Da. Mama. Up.”
“Why, baby?” Scully asked.
They looked at each other, then got out of bed. Mulder tossed Tyler up to sit on his shoulders, and Scully put a bathrobe on, slung the fanny pack over her shoulder, and they walked downstairs.
Frohike, Langly, Byers, Sarah and Krycek were all sitting on the couch.
“Can’t you knock like normal people?” Mulder asked.
“We just got word from his source,” Langly said, pointing at Krycek. “The syndicate is in session right now, in England, and they’re discussing what kind of action they’re going to take about the project in San Diego. We need to get moving, now.”
“And you just spent 15 minutes communicating this through my psychic one-year-old, rather than, oh, I don’t know, come up the stairs?” Mulder snapped.
They looked at him, baffled. “We just got here a minute ago. We were about to draw straws to see who should go wake you up,” Byers said.
Scully gave Tyler a funny look. “He was very insistent.”
Tyler reached down around Mulder’s head, and said, “Mug.”
Mulder pulled him down, and set him on his feet. Tyler took a few staggering steps, then thumped down on his bottom and crawled over to the couch.
Scully said, “How about you guys hang out with him, while we go get dressed?”
Byers made a dismissive gesture. “Go.”
After a heated debate, Mulder took Tyler out to the car, and drove over to Carol’s house to drop him off, while the rest headed over to campus.
Sarah explained to Scully that Jessie was already with Joe, working on the final touches for the doses of nanoid treatments, and that Skinner and Garrett Spender were working on getting the girls ready to go. “Langly’s going to have to go get the transport ready for them, so I’m going to be your resident hacker for the day. Not that John-boy didn’t do a good job with the setup, but we’re still going to have to do some cracking, he thinks. Kry-baby got a nice cooler for you to take in. All official, like.”
Scully snorted, and glanced up at the front passenger seat. “Tell me you didn’t say that to his face...”
“I can run faster than he can,” Sarah said. “Seriously. But no.”
“Plan?” Scully asked.
Sarah flipped open a laptop. “This is the layout of the freezer, we think. The stuff you want, according to Ringo, is here.” She pointed. “The guard is over here. We’re hoping you can just walk in, but if not, Krycek is going to go pull a power play on the guard, see if he’s us or them, and hopefully provide you with a grade A distraction. As soon as you’re out, he’s going to take care of the clones we know are here. There will be gloves in there, you just put the relevant stuff in the cooler, walk back out.”
“Do we have an alternate storage facility?” Scully asked.
Sarah nodded. “Jessie has a temporary makeshift at Carol’s, and as soon as she and Joe are done helping Mulder, she and John-boy are going to high-tail it up to Victoria.”
Scully nodded. “Not that I have any idea what I’m going to do with twelve cloned embryos.”
“Must be crazy. Cute kid though. Wouldn’t mind seeing more of him around.” Sarah grinned.
Scully gave her a slightly scandalized expression. “My priest had no clue either. The whole fact of their existence is such a huge sacrilege... it’s hard to get my mind around what should happen to them.”
“Donate them to someone who can’t have kids.” Sarah said. “Easy.”
“It’s hard enough knowing that twenty seven of my children have died without my knowing them. It feels worse, somehow, to think about them out there somewhere with someone else. But twelve?” Scully shook her head. “The idea of three babies is scary enough. Let alone four sets of identical triplets.”
“They won’t all survive. Haven’t some of them been on ice for years?” Sarah shrugged. “Don’t worry about it today. You ready?”
Scully shot her a strange look. “Counting on some of them not surviving doesn’t exactly feel right either.” She sighed.“You think I’d get used to this.”
When she stepped out of the car, Krycek handed her a gun. She felt its familiar heft, and said, “It’s been weeks.”
He shrugged. “Like riding a bike. You have the dart gun?”
She nodded, pulling open her lab coat. “Recharged it and everything.”
Sarah and Byers went in together. Frohike stayed in the van with the monitoring equipment, and Scully put on a new pair of glasses and her earpiece. “Finally getting to use it,” she said to Frohike. “It’s about time.”
She walked in alone, but she knew Krycek was near. Long halls, not nearly as opulent as the lobby, and she finally found herself at the tissue preservation center. The guard looked up as she came in, and she said, “Just have to put some specimens in storage for Dr. Calderon.” He frowned, and said, “Deliveries are on Thursday. And I know the guy. Who are you?”
She frowned. “I’m Dr. Harrod. It’s urgent that we get these samples in liquid nitrogen, now, or weeks of work will be destroyed.”
“He has facilities at his place. He doesn’t work here at night. Who are you?”
Krycek appeared behind her, and said, “You know me.”
The guard’s eyes widened.
“Let her put her samples away.” Krycek said.
The guard nodded. “I have to log it.”
“Just let her go back. She’ll fill out the log on the way out. I think the way bill is at the bottom of her cooler, and she can’t open it until she’s in the freezer.”
Scully walked passed the guard, and into the chill of the entry to the freezers. She shivered, shifted the cooler to one hip and grabbed a pair of gloves off a hook. She walked over to the section Sarah had pointed out, and found a series of round freezer units. *Done this before*
She counted, then found the fourth unit. A keypad lock. She swore softly, and said, “Code, anyone?”
Sarah’s voice in her ear said, “No joy, it’s not networked.”
She tried DSFM, typed in on the numeric keypad as if it were a telephone keypad. Nothing. Purity control. No. Purity. She was starting to feel a little panicky, and very cold, when the door opened. She put her hand on her gun, but it was just Krycek. He walked over, and punched in 102994 and the light turned green.
She nodded, and opened it. A rack rose slowly from the chamber, tiny drawers labeled with four letter codes. She walked around until she found one marked DS, and pressed it. It slid open, and inside, she found a series of metal tubes, labeled. Most were simply marked with her name and the retrieval dates. Three dates. How they’d managed to make her ovulate three times in the time she was gone, she had no idea. She stared at them, until Krycek cleared his throat, and opened the cooler for her.
She gently lay the tubes in the little padded box in the cooler. Then she found four straws, each with a date, and she swallowed hard when she realized she looking at the embryos. “So small,” she said. “Hard to believe that there are twelve possible people in there.”
Krycek said, “ Quit mooning. We don’t have much time. The guard was a shapeshifter, and I paralyzed him, but we’re going to need to get to the door before I melt him.”
She nodded, laying the four straws in the box, and closed it all up. “I’m done.”
They walked back out. The guard looked almost human, and his hands were moving. They broke into a run. At the door, Krycek whipped around and shot the toxin into the guard. The door slammed, and they watched as he toppled. “That will never get old,” Krycek said, “And there are only the two Crawfords and the two nurses left. I’ll get them. You get that out of here.”
In her ear, she heard Byers say, “We’ve locked the area and put a new code on the door. It should take them some work to get back in. It should buy some time.”
She nodded to Krycek, and walked quickly out of the hospital, carrying the cooler.
Mulder met her at the door, and she said, “He’s gone after the others.” She shifted the cooler back to her hip again and handed him the dart gun. “I’ll get this to Carol and pick up Tyler. You finish this.”
He nodded, tucked the guns under his windbreaker, and went to find Krycek.
At Carol’s, the place was a buzz of activity. Tyler was conked out out the couch, but three people were on cell phones, and Carol sat at the kitchen table arguing with Flo.
The student Scully had met early on, the tall one with no hair, opened the door. “Bring it to the back room, we’ve got a tank set up there.”
“Thank you...” Scully said, searching for a name.
“Molly,” the girl supplied, and led Scully through the house. “We’re going to have you and Tyler head over to the salon. Dot wants to get started, apparently she has a plan for you. She’s got a pack ‘n play set up for him to sleep in, and we’ve just found a bus to get the girls out. One of your friends will bring them to you at the salon so you can do the treatments while you are getting your makeover.”
Scully nodded, and looked at the large canister in front of her. “Isn’t it plugged in?”
“It’s got an 85 day hold time, doesn’t need to be plugged in. It’s designed for shipping semen long-distance,” Molly explained. “It should be fine until it gets wherever it needs to go.
Scully nodded, and examined the container. Then she twisted the top, and Molly handed her a pair of insulated gloves. She lifted a rack up and out, and smiled. “They’ll fit perfectly,” she said, and opened the cooler to transfer the tiny metal tubes over. When they were all in place, the rack lowered back into the shipping container, and the lid on, Scully let out a long breath.
From the kitchen, a voice penetrated. “Do what you need to do to give them the time,” Carol said, with heat in her voice. “I don’t know what that’s hard to understand.”
“You’re not the one with a cop breathing down your neck,” Flo said. “I thought we’d have days until they were missed.”
Scully walked into the kitchen. “What’s wrong?”
“Someone reported my coworker missing. Mister Kresge showed up on my doorstep earlier to ask me if I’d seen her on Saturday. I told him, ‘no’, but the shit is going to hit the fan in the morning when he checks out the entry logs.”
“Whatever you can do to buy us more time....” Scully frowned. “We’ve got to get Tyler’s tracking chip out. Do you know where Joe is?”
Carol said, “They’re going to meet us at the salon in about two hours.”
“I guess it will wait that long, but I want him off the radar as soon as possible. Do we know the ETA on the girls?”
“I think we’ll get them there an hour after Joe,” Carol said. “How about you pack Tyler up and let Molly drive you two over?”
Scully nodded. “Thank you, by the way,” she said. “This...” she gestured at the room, the people making phone calls. “It’s amazing.”
Flo smiled. “If what Gwynne tells us is true, you’re working on saving all of us. How could we not?”
Scully swallowed. “Not just me...” *Mulder...*
2:00 a.m. Thornton Medical Center
Mulder headed up to the NICU. A security guard stopped him, and he said, “My wife is a doctor here. I was looking for her.”
The guard frowned. “Name?”
The guard flipped through a list on a clipboard, and said, “Lists her as Urgent Care. Why would she be up here?”
“I think she had a patient transfer, and wanted to check on them,” Mulder said, looking past the guard desperately. “I’m supposed to give her a ride home.”
“Isn’t it kind of late for an Urgent Care doc to be checking NICU?” the guard asked.
A hand snaked around the corner and clocked the guard with the butt of a gun. He looked dazed and slumped back against his chair.
Krycek hissed, “Follow me.”
Mulder checked the guard’s pulse, and followed Krycek down the hallway.
“We’ve got a problem,” Krycek said softly. “They’re there, all right, but there are three babies in the room. I figured you all wouldn’t like it if we exposed them to the vapors those things give off when they die.”
“What about the antidote?” Mulder asked.
“The read problem is that they’re the only two nurses on shift. We may have to wait until the shift changes at six...”
Mulder hit the side of his fist against a wall. “When that guard comes to, all hell is going to break loose. We have to leave them.”
“Are you sure? We may not get another chance at them.” Krycek pulled him into the stairwell.
Mulder frowned. “What do they know?”
“As far as I can tell, they’re drones, but I don’t like leaving them in place.” Krycek gestured with his head up the stairs. “The Crawfords are in oncology.”
“Oncology?” Mulder asked.
Krycek nodded. “They’re listed as hematologists.”
“Do those things ever sleep?” Mulder asked.
“Not that I’ve seen.” Krycek called back, taking the stairs two at a time.
Mulder jogged up the stairs after him.
The first Crawford looked up from the nursing station, cocked his head, and said, “I hope you’ll talk to me first, Alex.”
Krycek frowned. “Why should I?”
“Because I believe, if you are here with Agent Mulder for the reason I believe you are here, that we are on the same side. Agent Mulder knows.” Crawford looked past Krycek at Mulder, who frowned.
“What do I know?” Mulder asked. “That you are a creation? That you have been helping make small children sick? That you’re working with the people who are complicit in the creation and deaths of twenty seven of my children and countless others?”
“You might want to keep your voice down. There are sick people here. I understand that Agent Scully had a full recovery. May I offer my sincere congratulations? Truly it is a miracle.” Crawford stood up, slowly. “I am not going to harm you. If you are here, it means that you know enough that you’re probably on a killing spree as we speak. My brother and I.... we’ve been waiting.”
“Waiting. You could have been helping.” Mulder spat the words out. “How many children died since you got here?”
“Of those who escaped the NICU alive? Three. The ones who were already too far gone to save. We tried. Several of the children would have been dead a month ago, but for us. Have you even tried to help them? Or have you come barreling in here hell-bent on revenge?” Kurt gestured. “If you follow me...”
“We not only have been trying to help them, but we believe we have a cure,” Mulder said. “We might just have a cure for all of them.”
This set Crawford back on his heels. “That’s... how?”
Krycek shook his head. “Nope, it doesn’t work that way. We not only have a cure, we have a way of rendering your kind inert, or dead, from a distance. So you meet us on our terms. What do you have to offer?”
“Access to the hybrids like us, who want to work against the coming holocaust. Information. Leave us in place, and we may be the best spies you can ask for.”
“What about the two nurses who work here?” Mulder asked.
Crawford frowned. “You have not taken care of them?”
“We couldn’t do it without risking the infants in their care,” Mulder said. “And we had a run-in with a guard. Going back could be hazardous.”
“If you are willing to share your method,” said the Crawford clone, “We could take care of it.”
Mulder looked at Krycek, who raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “Your call.”
“Shit.” Mulder turned and managed to resist kicking the wall. He closed his eyes. “We’ll give it to you. Then you talk to the man who no longer smokes. Let him decide what to do with you. And if you betray us, betray our cause, I will personally hunt you down and reduce you to your component molecules.”
Krycek pulled out two regular syringes, filled with tiny amounts of the white fluid. “That will have to be enough. What about your brother? Where is he?”
Crawford gestured with his head down the hall. “In the radiology lab. But we are of one mind.”
*I can’t believe I’m doing this* “See the man today. You will no longer be needed where your patients are concerned.” Mulder said.
“I have something that might help you.” Crawford reached into his pocket, and pulled out a tiny device. “This will deactivate the locator chips in our patients. Consider it a gesture of goodwill.”
Mulder accepted it, and said, “Whose offspring are you?”
Crawford narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“Because you look naggingly familiar, and I want to know if you’re family.”
“Noel Thorne and Samantha Mulder provided material that contributed to our existence. But we are not as human as later models... far more gene manipulation was done, and unlike humans, we take more than half our human genes from our father. Call us a beta model.” Crawford shrugged. “I suppose technically I am your nephew.”
Mulder frowned. “I’m not sure I want to tell your parents about you.”
“No need.” Crawford looked at him placidly.
“We need to get out of here. I don’t want to wait around for the cavalry.” Mulder looked around.
Crawford pointed down the hall. “That way, and then down the stairs, all the way to the ground floor. You’ll emerge right next to the front door.”
Mulder nodded, then he and Krycek moved quickly down the hall.
3:00 a.m. The Gnu Ewe Spa and Salon
Tyler barely woke when Scully carried him into the long, skinny shop. The front looked like a standard beauty parlor, very basic. But lights glowed in the back, and Dot led her into a quiet hive of activity. Several people were setting up cots, someone was turning a long counter into a cooking area, and a small portable crib had been set up in the corner.
Scully lowered Tyler gently into the new bed, thinking, *Shhhh, safe now, sleep.* She decided that perhaps having a psychic toddler was not the worst possible thing, as he did not even open his eyes. *Complete trust. Hope I can live up to it.*
As soon as he was down, Dot said, “Let me look at you.”
She turned around. Her red hair was in a flyaway braid, she was wearing her contacts and glasses still, and under the lab coat she wore a pretty blouse and a pair of beige slacks.
Dot said, “Bend a little, I need to look at your hair.”
Scully bent forward, and Dot scrutinized her roots. “Okay, I need to know what you’ve been using to refresh your color.”
Scully frowned. “I’m a natural redhead.”
“Honey, I know. But you’re what, 34 years old? NO redhead stays that color past twenty five without help. And if I’m changing your color, which I expect to do, I need to make sure you’re not using henna.”
“I don’t use henna. I occasionally do a rinse of color, but I don’t have to do it very often.”
Dot peered at her head. “How would you feel about going blonde?”
Scully blinked. “I... never really thought about it.”
“It would look more dramatically different than brunette... and I’d like to do some airbrush tanning on you. Blonde will look better with that, with your blue eyes.” Dot smiled.
Scully frowned. “I... Not peroxide blonde...”
“Do you trust me, dearie?” Dot said.
“Then let me tell you what I would like to do to help you disappear.” Dot said. “But first, hop up on that chair there, I want to show you in the mirror.”
Climbing up in to the chair, Scully sighed a little seeing her reflection. “I’m used to this now, you know...”
Dot laughed. “Of course you are. You were used to what it was before, too. Now, if you’re going to be in Mexico, you’re going to need to have the simplest routine you can. That means we’re getting rid of the extensions, and the glasses, and the contacts, and the patch. That sound okay?”
“Will I look different enough?” Scully asked.
“Honey, your husband won’t recognize you.” Dot grinned. “By the way, congratulations.”
“So here’s what I’m thinking. Your natural eye color. Plus an all-over airbrushed tan, and don’t you start fretting about orange, I’m better than that. We’ll exfoliate first, it should give you a good five or six days, and once you get where you’re going, you should be just fine in your natural skin. Blonde hair, but a natural looking medium blonde, probably have to leave some red highlights in. Straight. Your hair is longer than it was a month ago, under all those extensions. We’ll do a keratin heat treatment, it should help with management. The bad news is that we’re going to be starting this shortly, and between me and my assistant, we’ll be working on it for the next 12-16 hours. You’ll have breaks, of course, to work with the girls.” Dot smiled. “Sound okay?”
“I... Sure. I’d wear a clown suit if I thought it would help.” Scully sighed. “But I’ve only had a couple hours sleep.”
“Sleep while we work, love.” Dot smiled, and held up a scant bikini. “Go put this on, unless you’re willing to be naked in a roomful of people....”
Scully took the bikini without comment, and went into the rest room.
3:00 Carol’s house
The Gunmen dropped Jessie, Joe and Mulder at Carol’s and took off with Krycek to go help Skinner and Langly. Carol sighed when she saw them and said, “Molly will be back in a few, you should head over to the salon too, so you can drop off what she needs for the girls.”
“We had a mishap at the hospital,” Mulder said. “It is possible that law enforcement will start looking for me...”
“Well, let’s get you going as soon as we can. Take a different car. Tell you what. Take mine, and we’ll switch for now. You’re not taking your car with you anyway. Was the mishap fatal?” Carol asked.
“No. But likely to cause problems if we can’t take care of things quickly.”
“You know where the salon is?” Carol asked.
“I do,” said Flo. “I should be there for the girls anyway. I’ll drive them in my car.”
She kissed Carol, and then led them out into the night.
When they got to the salon ten minutes later, Mulder was startled by the volume of activity. Scully was reclined in a chair, wearing a bikini, while Dot picked at her head, removing long strands of hair. He smiled. “Anna, darling, you’ve changed.”
She lifted her head, and looked at him. “They’re turning me into a blonde.”
“Hot blonde in a bikini... I can deal,” he said.
She snorted. “Tell me you’ve got the treatments...”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said with a cheesy grin. Then he continued, more seriously. “Joe’s got them all worked out. You’ll really only need the one dehybridizer, for Lucita, as Felicia has already been treated and the other two are dead. We’re sorting out what we need. We’ve also got a control pad and stabilizer chips for the girls who are not as pregnant, so that you can flush them all.”
Joe said, “You know, Dana, you have a choice... when you flush the probes, you could run the treatment that they’ve been giving Tyler. If you flush them without turning that gene off in the fetal brains, they may have some talent as they grow older. Not as much as Tyler, but more than most humans.” He paused. “It could be useful, to have people capable of that kind of communication...”
She sat up straight and said, “Turn them into tools?”
Joe shrugged a little. “Would you turn it off in Tyler? Would you make him deaf to something he’s always known?”
She frowned. “I hadn’t... I hadn’t thought about it.”
“With the technology we have on hand, if it became necessary, later, we could turn the necessary genes off. It might be harder to turn them back on again.”
She closed her eyes. “Why is this a decision that falls to me?”
Mulder said, “You know, if we leave it active in their brains... those children can’t go to parents who don’t know what they’re getting.”
A tiny oriental woman working at a counter turned around. “Do not worry about the children. We will make sure they are appropriately placed, with people who will be open-minded enough to accept.”
Mulder frowned. “I don’t think you understand how hard most people find it to accept someone who can read their thoughts. Have we met?”
She smiled. “I’m Heron. Really, please do not underestimate us... we do understand to our bones the problems associated with discrimination and fear. These children will be cared for. All of them. We may need to apply Tyler’s Therapy to the children you treat today as well, unless you plan on doing a flush on all of them.”
“Joe, if the flush works, do you know why the mothers would need stabilizer chips?” Scully asked.
He frowned. “They shouldn’t. I suspect it was a diversion on the part of Dr. Calderon. However, there may be some lingering toxicity of the treatments we haven’t taken into account... We’ll wait until the girls are here, and you can run your treatment on Lucita while I can monitor. Perhaps we will wait on the flush until we are done with the children.”
Mulder said, “We have six of the control units. If we leave one with Flo and one with Heron, they can address the nanoid issue at their leisure, right?”
“For young children, it’s pressing. We believe,” Joe said, “that the reason that Tyler grows so well despite his nanoids is that they have been deactivating all of them outside his brain since he was born. I believe the maternal circulation dampens the in-utero effect of the active gene on growth, her mature kidneys and liver can probably dilute whatever hormonal or mitochondrial effect is caused by it. But when the baby is born, and needs to grow rapidly, something must be done. I think we need to either turn all the genes off with the device, or use the treatment to turn the body genes off, and then flush after one of those steps.”
“How many doses do we have of Tyler’s treatment?” Mulder asked.
“Enough. If you flush his system before his next treatment was due, you won’t need them for him. So perhaps you need to give each child the antidote, then an IV treatment... then flush.” Joe stopped. “We will be needing to spend at least two hours with each child...”
Heron said, “Can you either bring them here or cluster them? Treat several at a time?”
Jessie said, “I can handle up to about four of those together. Any more and the kids are going to get scared and there won’t be enough of any of us to go around. How many are we looking at?”
Mulder said, “Thirteen. Two of them are three years old. Four two year olds, including little Amanda. Three one year olds and four babies.”
Joe said, “If they need heavy intervention, I can handle no more than two of them at a time.”
“That’s fourteen hours worth of treatment,” Scully said. “It’s what, almost four? We can’t start until seven... that puts you back here at nine. How long am I going to take, Dot?”
“About that long. Longer if you don’t let me do my job.”
Scully lay back, and said, “Better cluster them. We need to minimize traffic here anyway.”
“If it becomes apparent that they are tolerating treatments well, I want to come back here and remove your chip,” Joe said.
“Why not now?” Scully said.
“I don’t want to give them time to find you once it’s out. I’ll get here as soon as I can.”
“Call Joanie,” Scully said. “You should start with Amanda, and you might be able to start earlier.”
Mulder had his phone out before she finished talking.
3:00 a.m. Teen Mothers’ Home
The bus they’d been loaned looked like a Furthur wannabe. Ancient and brightly muraled, it was the exact opposite of anything a government man would have used. Langly loved it completely, instantly. The guard stared at him as he came in, but his close association with Krycek and Garrett Spender apparently afforded him some latitude, as the guard simply waved him in without comment.
Langly walked into the facility, and found Skinner standing with the girls in the hallway. Each had a small bundle, all looked frightened. Langly smiled brightly and said, “Ready to climb on the happy bus?”
They stared at him. He sighed. “Come on.”
Skinner said, “Vamos, por favor.”
Langly held the door open and they filed out. When they saw the bus, the mood changed dramatically.
As they were pulling out of the parking lot, the white van pulled up next to them. Krycek looked over and laughed outright at the old school bus.
Frohike said, “Krycek man, you know we love you, but we’re going to switch rides. His is cooler.”
Krycek gave a bemused wave. “Go right ahead.”
Byers, Frohike and Sarah piled out of the van and got on the bus.
Langly realized, once they were on the road, that they really were teenagers, by their laughing and rapid chatter.
Skinner sat behind the driver’s seat and said, “Hell of a ride.”
Langly smiled. “Happy bus.”
Frohike said, “You guys should know that Krycek beaned a guard, and they were both probably on video tape, if the guard files a complaint. It’s a complication.”
“We should tail Mulder today. In case something happens.” Langly frowned. “I don’t like it.”
Byers said, “You and me and Frohike. I think Sarah and Skinner should stay at our place... I’d like to not have all our eggs in one basket if something goes wrong at one of the hot spots.”
Langly stared at the road. “We’re almost done with this, right? Please tell me I can go back to being a slacker soon.”
“Beats me. I hope so.” Frohike said.
Byers looked back at the girls. “We’re close to getting them safe. So close.”
“It feels too easy,” Langly said. “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
A few minutes later, they pulled into the little parking lot behind the salon. “Gnu Ewe?” Skinner asked.
“It’s a temporary setup. It will be back to Cut N Shave or whatever next week,” Langly said.
Inside, it was a hive of controlled chaos. The girls walked in, and stood in a cluster near the door until Flo stepped out and began to introduce people. Dot quit fussing with Scully’s hair and handed her a bathrobe, and she looked over at the girls. *Which?*
A girl stepped forward and said, “I am Maria. This here is Lucita,” and she took a taller, paler girl’s hand. “I was told that someone...”
Scully stepped down from the chair, wrapping the robe around her and tying it. “I’m sorry I’m not more presentable,” she said. “They’re changing my appearance so that we will not be found easily.”
Maria smiled. “It is okay. I have just been curious to meet you since Alex told me about you.”
Mulder came over to join them. “You are carrying our child?” *God, she’s tiny. Scully’s small... but not that small.* The other girl was closer to Scully’s height, and enormously pregnant.
Scully looked at the girls’ bellies, and felt her body go a little numb. “It is... I... I’m happy to meet you. Would you like to meet Tyler?”
“Tyler?” Maria asked.
“The babies you two carry have a big brother. He’s asleep over there,” Mulder gestured at the portable crib, “and you’re welcome to look at him.”
Maria spoke to Lucita, who frowned at them and glanced at the crib. Lucita spoke back, and Maria snapped at her.
Scully pursed her lips and then said, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand Spanish...”
“Lucita has... she thinks the baby is hers to keep if she wants, and the more people tell her otherwise, the more stubborn she gets. She does not want to see your boy, because she is a fool.”
Scully bit her lip and stared up at Mulder, who looked pained. “Please tell her that I cannot imagine what it must be like to carry a baby for nine months and then be told that you cannot keep it. And let her know that we want to help...” She stopped, and Maria spoke to Lucita, who knit her brows together.
Mulder said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple months. We do not want... I don’t want to compound the wrong that has been done to her... but please ask her to understand that we can’t just let another child of ours disappear. We just can’t. But I don’t want to hurt her either... she has made such a sacrifice. I hope we can find some way of making this work for both of us.”
Maria translated, and then said, “You are kind. She is not ready to listen, but since she knows that if she goes off alone, she’ll die, I think that she will stay for now.”
Scully closed her eyes and fought for control. “And you?”
“This is not my baby,” Maria said. “I chose to go with the men because they promised to help my family. I am too young to be more than an aunt or a sister to a child. So is Lucita, but she does not know it. When this baby comes, I will give the baby to you willingly.”
Scully opened her eyes and looked at Maria. “Thank you... it is a gift I cannot begin to repay. But we can certainly help your family, can’t we, Mulder?”
He said, “Of course. Would you like to go to school?”
Maria nodded. “I... I used to read. But they did not allow us books. I think if I’d known they did not allow books, I would not have gone with them. My mother came to the United States to have me so that I would have a good schooling...but she was sent back when I was 12, and she left me with others who did not care so much for school. I thought when the men came it would be an escape...they promised that they’d bring my mother back. Lucita came later to the program. She did not choose it. She is very angry.”
“Can you translate for me more?” Scully asked. “I think she and I may have something in common.”
Maria looked up at Lucita and spoke to her. Lucita frowned and did not say anything.
Scully gripped Mulder’s hand tightly, looked directly at Lucita and said, “They took me, too, without permission. I was beaten, and kidnapped, and taken to a place where they did horrible things to my body. Then they stole my memories from me.” She waited for Maria to translate, then continued. “They took all hope of future children from me. I was told I could never have children. And then I found a little girl, who was sick from their torture. She was mine and she died.” Another pause. “We came to find out how many more there were. And I was told that twenty six more of my children had died without me ever knowing them.”
Lucita looked at Scully and said something, and Maria translated, “I know this baby. She kicks me and I hear her in my head. Could you let go of a child you knew that way?”
Tears sprang to Scully’s eyes. “I couldn’t. But please don’t take another child away from me.”
Mulder said, “Stay with us... we have money, you could be comfortable...”
Maria translated, listened, frowned, spoke to Lucita, and then sighed. “She wants her freedom.”
Flo put her hand on Scully’s arm. “Sally, I don’t think you can sort this out right now. But the girls aren’t going anywhere for a while, so why don’t you do what you need to do, and we’ll give Lucita some space, and we’ll go from there.”
Scully closed her eyes and nodded.
Maria said, “I would like to see your boy.”
Scully walked over the the pack n play with Maria and they looked in on Tyler, sleeping with a little wrinkle in his brow.
“He’ s so pale,” Maria said. “Most of the babies in the camp were dark. But my first child was pale that way. I only saw her for a minute, but I remember that flash of white skin and bright hair, so different from the babies I’d seen before. It helped, to know she could not have come from me.”
“When was that?” Scully asked.
“She was born last fall. And they told me she died soon after. But we are used to that. It happens to half the babies born,” Maria spoke as if it were a plain fact, no emotion attached.
Mulder said. “September 21.”
Maria nodded. “How did you know?”
“I had a look at the records. A little girl born on the 21st died the same day. That was our daughter.” He frowned, feeling a rage building.
Scully swallowed hard. “They’re all numbers until someone tells me something about them.”
“I asked about her name. They told me to give her one. I called her Melisa after an herb my mother used to make into a tea for me at bedtime. I found a cluster of it on the grounds and made myself tea for days after...”
Tears started rolling, and Scully said, “It’s a good name. Thank you.” She turned, and Mulder put his arms around her. She did not sob, just stood there as still as stone, leaning against him with tears rolling down her cheeks.
Jessie said to her quietly, “Do you want me to handle the treatment?”
Scully nodded, but didn’t say anything. Jessie put a hand on her shoulder, then turned to find Joe.
A few minutes later, she brushed the tears away, reached down into the crib and picked Tyler up. He turned his head sleepily, and then rested on her shoulder, but did not wake up. She said to Mulder, “Will you come with me to the front?”
He followed her to the storefront, and they stood in the darkened space, light filtering in from the street.
She leaned into him and said, “I hate that you’re doing this without me today.”
He wrapped his arms around the two of them and stroked her hair. “It’s just today. We’ll be together tonight, and then we’ll have a good long time to make sense of this all.”
She nodded into his chest. “I love you. Be careful.”
He kissed the top of her head, then took Tyler from her, holding him tight to his chest. “You too.”
Then he leaned over and kissed her. “Take care of my boy today. And the girls.”
Lucita was settled on a cot on her side. Jessie administered the treatment quickly, and Joe sat with his hand on Lucita’s shoulder.
Scully sat in the chair again, and Dot swiveled her around so that she could see Joe and Jessie working.
Joe looked up after a few minutes and said, “She is right. I can hear the baby, clearly, and she has some resonance. Not clear, but I suspect she can hear the baby well.”
Scully frowned. “What is that like? Hearing the thoughts of a fetus?”
“It’s a sense, not an image, but a feeling. Safety. Warmth. Trust. The child is broadcasting constantly. There is... I cannot pinpoint it. But there is a strangeness to how she is projecting it.” Joe closed his eyes and dropped his head, and then looked up. “The room is noisy with it. Tyler is quiet, sleeping, but there are six babies in utero who are broadcasting.”
“That young? There are only three who are more than 28 weeks along,” Jessie said.
“Maria’s is, also. And two others....there.” He pointed at two girls standing side by side with bellies slightly larger than Maria’s.
“In other words, every girl past about 18 weeks,” Mulder said. “Maybe we should do the complete nanoid flush on the three who are less pregnant.”
Frohike spoke up, finally. “We were told that they changed the treatments in the second trimester. Maybe those girls didn’t do stage 2.”
“Do we have saline?” Scully asked.
Jessie said, “I don’t think so... and we’re going to need it if we’re going to do the Tyler Treatment. We’re looking at nineteen doses...”
“Almost five liters,” Scully supplied. “But you’ll need divided doses.”
Joe said, “I can get it at the hospital.”
“Are you just going to walk in and ask for it?” Langly asked.
“No, I thought I’d wait, take a look at one of the nurses, then put on the face and go get it out of stores myself.” Joe smiled.
Several people stared at him, and he rolled his eyes. “Fine. How about this?”
And suddenly a second Jessie was sitting next to Lucita. Jessie said, “Stop that.”
He reverted back to his grad student persona. “Okay.”
Mulder said, “You’ve persuaded me. Let’s go.”
Scully said, “The powders are in the fanny sack.”
They gathered their resources, and left with the Gunmen.
5:08 a.m. Thornton Medical Center
It really did prove to be that simple. Joe walked into the hospital, was gone for about fifteen minutes, and then walked out with a box filled with small packets of saline, IV tubing and needles, several measuring utensils on top.
The next stop was back at the cul de sac, where Mulder, Joe and Jessie found Joanie and Rich sitting awake on their couch, Amanda lying next to them, flushed and lethargic..
Joe mixed the treatment, then stood with one hand on Amanda while Jessie used the injector.
Her parents watched with expressions that seemed torn between hope and fear. Mulder said, quietly, “You may want to relocate, soon.”
Joanie said, “If this works, we’re going to Oklahoma to see my mother, today.”
Jessie frowned and said something in a hushed voice to Joe. He nodded, and Jessie asked, “Could you remove her nightgown? I need to have a better view of her respirations and tumors.”
Joanie came over and slipped the little girl out of her nightgown, and then gasped. “They’re disappearing...”
The green pustules were indeed shrinking, but Joe reached down and put a hand on the girl’s stomach and head, and said, “There is much tissue damage... I’m afraid this may hurt her, but I must...” He closed his eyes. The greyish streaks left behind anywhere a green spot retreated started to pink up. A few minutes later, Amanda opened her eyes, and looked up at Joe.
Mulder said, “Can she....”
Joe nodded. “She is not as strong as Tyler, but it is there. We’re talking.” He paused, then said, “Those men have no idea how much danger these children were becoming to them. Let us try not to explain it to them.” He was silent for another moment. “She does not want to stop being able to ‘hear’ that way.”
Jessie nodded. “I wouldn’t, either. Shall I start the treatment?”
Mulder said to Joanie, “She has an ability to read minds. The thing that causes it...we think that by curing the green bumps, we will have eliminated part of how her body was able to grow in spite of it... without that, she may not grow well unless we make sure that her body is not affected. But we have two ways of dealing with it. We can either take the ability away from her, or leave it.”
Joanie looked alarmed. “She knows our thoughts?”
Mulder nodded. “My son seems aware of things we think clearly to ourselves, but I don’t think we are a completely open book to him, if I understand Joe correctly. It has been... more useful than not so far, although clearly there is a potential for abuse as they grow older.”
Rich said, “Let her keep it. I think I knew...”
Joanie nodded. “It explains a lot.”
Jessie started the IV, and they watched as the bag emptied into the little girl’s arm. Then Mulder brought out the controller, already set to flush, and pressed the button. A few minutes later, Joe said, “I can feel her body starting to process them. It seems they are moving like waste... to the kidneys.”
They sat with her for another half hour, until Joe nodded and said, “It is done. I would like to check on her later, and I think she should drink something, but I think she’s going to be okay.”
Joanie started to cry, and Rich shook Mulder’s hand. “Thank you. Who is next on your list? I want to call them and tell them it’s all right.”
Mulder told them, and then they went to the next stop that Flo had arranged.
9:00 a.m. Gnu Ewe Spa and Salon
Scully was snoozing during the spa treatments, while Tyler was passed from one person to another, reveling in the attention. Someone made breakfast. Some of the girls were sleeping, others talking softly. Maria sat with Lucita, but they did not speak. Dot was working on Scully’s hair... she’d gotten all of the extensions out, and was prepping Scully for an elaborate bleach and dye job. Her assistant was working at covering Scully from neck to toes with a wrap guaranteed to moisturize and exfoliate. Scully dozed, warm from head to toe.
Maria got up after a while, and took Tyler into a corner someone had filled with toys. She sat with him, and he crawled over and stuck his head down near her belly, and said, “Baba.”
When the wrap came off, the chill of the air against her damp skin woke Scully fully. The assistant started using a rough mitt to remove dead skin, and Dot smiled pinkly down at Scully and said, “I’m going to start applying a color remover to your hair, hon. You ready?”
Dot explained as she worked that first she would remove the old tint, then bleach out segments, then bleach and tint the whole thing in pieces. That she was going for a look as natural as possible, with highlights, and that the last stage would be a high intensity heat protein treatment that should leave her hair feeling and behaving more naturally.
Dot’s assistant started spraying on a skin darkener on Scully’s legs. At one point, Scully ended up standing in her bikini with her head covered with flat foil strips while the assistant sprayed her back. Tyler thought this was very funny.
At lunchtime, Dot stopped, and let Scully look. It was no longer red, but not yet tinted, and hung shapeless and scruffy. The tanning solution wiped off leaving her bright orange, and she looked at Dot ruefully. “We’re only half done, sweetie. Don’t worry about it.”
They ate nut butter sandwiches prepared assembly line style, and oranges from Carol’s yard.
11:30 a.m. University District
Things were going smoothly. Flo had wisely scheduled the sickest children first, and the fourth batch required no intervention from Joe at all.
Mulder watched the children interacting as they removed the IV... and realized they were not talking out loud to each other. No babble, no babytalk. Occasionally one would speak to a parent, but they were silent the way Tyler was silent. He repeated the warning to each family... leave if you can. All agreed. He deactivated each child’s locator chip before leaving.
When that treatment was done, they went back to Amanda’s house to check on her. Joe reported no nanoids in her system at all. At that point, he asked to be dropped back at the salon so that he could help Scully begin Tyler’s Treatment on the girls.
Mulder went in with Joe, and grinned when he saw Tyler, who walked over to him. “Big boy. Has he been walking all day like that?” He picked Tyler up.
Scully nodded. He studied her. “The orange legs are new. The blonde... I assume you’re not done?”
“Just taking a break. Apparently the hair will not be like straw when she’s done, and the legs won’t be orange either.”
Dot smiled. “By the end of the day, she’ll be perfect.”
Scully snorted. “That I doubt, but I trust that it will look okay.”
“Well, we’ve got five more kids to work with, but we’re going to have to wait until six on the last one, because the parents work and couldn’t get off.” He gave a wry smile. “But I’ll be back after that one, and we’re leaving Joe with you to treat the girls.”
He looked around, and found Krycek reading a book in a corner. “No jobs today?” Mulder asked.
“My job is being here. Until all the various chips are deactivated, and Scully gone, we’re at risk. It would be disappointing to get this far with the maximum paranoia, and drop it just in time for the bad guys to show up. The Syndicate is apparently starting its own tiny little internal civil war, and this project may be a turning point. We’re hoping they discover the girls gone and decide to turn around and go home, but you know...” Krycek turned a page. “Go run your errands, g-man. I’ll watch the women.”
Mulder raised an eyebrow. “I thought she wasn’t your type.”
Krycek shook his head and stared at him for a moment. “Do you see what I’m doing? Besides. She’s not blonde enough. Or treacherous enough.”
Mulder left a few minutes later, and headed to the next appointment.
They decided to start the treatment and flush on Felicia first, out back in the bus where the controller would not affect the rest of the girls. Joe sat with her while the liquid flowed in, and Scully sat back in the chair to have her hair pulled in tiny chunks through a cap after she started the IV. The assistant worked on applying tanner to Scully’s face, a different product.
An hour later, Joe nodded, and said that the chip did not appear to be necessary, that Felicia’s body was coping just fine with the inactive nanoids.
Scully wrapped back up in the bathrobe and they settled the rest of the girls in for IV treatment. Once all the IVs were started, she went back to let the product sit on her hair. After the IVs were empty, Joe used the controller to flush the nanoids on the rest of the girls, and in Tyler.
Dot rinsed Scully’s hair for a long time, then applied a thick protein serum and started ironing it into place. While she was working on that, her assistant started airbrushing another colorant onto Scully’s face, to even out the tone and match it to the actually nice tan that had replaced the orange on the rest of her body.
At five thirty, the hair was dry. Dot did a tiny bit of trimming, then turned Scully to face the large wall mirror. She gasped. “That’s not me.”
“Told you. Feel your hair.” Dot smiled.
“Oh my god. It never felt like that, ever. I’ve got too much curl for it to be smooth...”
“Don’t wash it for a few days. It’s a new process... I made my own serum for it. You don’t want that to be clipped or have hats on it, it will set straight and make care very easy, but for the next few days, it can pick up kinks if you don’t treat it right.”
Scully turned her hair back and forth and said, “Will Tyler recognize me?”
Maria brought him over, and he reached for her and said, “Mama!” and then tried to grab her hair, but it slipped out of his hands. He frowned, then patted her cheek and said, “Mama,” again, as if he was trying to confirm it.
She nodded. “It’s me baby. We get to be different...”
Joe came over. “I think it is time for me to take your chip out.”
Her eyes widened, and she nodded. She handed Tyler back to Maria, and sat down on an office chair, tipping her head forward. He opened a small bag, and pulled out a scalpel and a tiny set of forceps. Dot brought over a rolling tray, and he lay his tools down. Then he said, “I’m going to need to work on you for a while. I will do what I can to take the pain away.”
She nodded, then went as still as she possibly could.
He stood with his left hand on her head, and she felt a light rush of endorphins as he made a tiny incision at her neck. A moment later, he was lifting the chip out, and she felt a burn, which was quickly replaced with a dizzying euphoria. She sighed, and he set the forceps and the chip down, and placed his other hand on her neck, where the small wound had already healed.
She felt a sharp pain and jumped a little, then an incredible rush. “What did you do?” she asked, sitting up when he lifted his hands away.
“I fixed all that I could. The scar tissue in your fallopian tubes and ovaries is too entrenched for me to deal with, but I did manage to undo the changes that would have resulted in a cancer a few months from now. It should not return. Oh, and the starting of adrenal fatigue. I figured you would need that, so I boosted your adrenal function.” He smiled.
She felt a sob rise in her throat. “Never.... Oh. It’s been nagging for so long, the idea that it might relapse...”
“We should start getting the girls packed up,” he said. “It may call unwanted attention.”
She nodded, and the room shifted back into a frenzy of activity. Scully pulled on a pair of jeans and a tank top, and put Tyler on her hip in the sling.
Lucita and Maria came over. Maria said, “Lucita says she does not want to go.”
“Tell her it isn’t safe... I can’t keep her safe if she is not with us,” Scully said, a bit of desperation rising in her voice. “Please tell her it is just for a while longer...”
Lucita listened to the translation, then shook her head and brushed past Scully toward the front of the store.
Scully walked after her, Maria following closely, but as Lucita opened the door, she gasped.
A man with no face came through the open door, caught Lucita, cocked his head, and brought up a metal pipe. She was caught in a blaze of flame.
Scully felt words ripping out of her throat, screaming, “NO! My baby...”
The rebel saw her and stepped forward. Scully took a step back and heard herself saying, “No, we’re on the same side, we’re fighting the same war, please no, we can help...” but it came out in a hoarse scream and he had no ears, and she saw Tyler’s hand come up with an unbabylike expression and she found herself screaming. Distantly she saw Lucita’s body fall, burning.
He walked up to her, and she stood, frozen, but he put the pipe down and put a hand up to touch Tyler’s head.
Krycek came running in and stopped, stock still, torn between protecting Scully and fulfilling the mandate he’d been given. *Above all else, make contact with the rebels.*
Scully watched the rebel cock his head, and recognized the gesture. Joe had done the same thing many times, healing, listening.
Then the rebel turned to her, mute, unhearing, and placed his hands on either side of her head, thumbs resting on either side of her nose. She watched, eyes wide, as he cocked his head, then she fell to her knees as a blinding pain started behind her nose. Two more faceless men came in and put their hands on her.
She felt herself scream again, and then the pain became a fullness and she realized she was hearingseeingknowing something she had no words for. A moment later, something coalesced, and she realized that Tyler’s hands were on her face and she knew he was asking if she was better, then he was making her better and she sagged with relief.
There was something else. you help us? how?
And an impression, warmth floating fear dana?
no just me
She looked up at the rebels and whispered, “What did you do?”
She felt the answer.
“We are working against the black oil,” she said, her voice hoarse. “We have reversed the hybridization process. We are trying to reverse the process where your people are merged.” She felt her words sliding in some new part of her brain into a knowing and saw a reaction.
nomerging? blackness*gone yes who
She fed the feeling back to them, exactly as she’d felt it.
She felt what she could only describe as a mental bellow, and Joe came up behind her, helped her to her feet. He put out a hand to the middle rebel, who took his hand and she could barely feel the edges of their interchange.
Krycek said, “What happened?” and she realized that she could feel from him worryannoyancefearfearHOPE but could not get more than the rough emotion.
She said, “He made it so I could understand.”
“Understand?” he asked.
“Tyler. And the aliens. Whatever strange telepathy they have... I... got the feeling that he looked at the template in Tyler, and applied it to me.” She took a deep breath, looked at Tyler, and said, “Baby boy, you just saved our lives.”
She felt joshua.
She looked at him, “Not Tyler?”
He said, out loud, “Osha.”
He smiled, and patted her cheeks. “Mama.”
She grinned. “Yes.”
Krycek looked past her, and then said, “Tell them to do it to me.”
She frowned. “Why?”
“Because I need to go with them.” He stepped forward and she formulated the thought/feeling, help kyrcek speaktalkknow.
Jeremiah shifted into the form she’d see him in first, the old man, and turned. “Are you sure, Dana?”
She sent, not sure never sure doitanyway.
He laughed, and he and the three rebels reached out for Krycek. One of them frowned, and Jeremiah said, “Mr. Krycek, you should remove your prosthesis.”
Scully felt what they were doing, and she moved forward to put a hand on him as they did it. seeknowfeel make...
She knew when the arm started to grow, felt it because at the same time something was taking shape in his scull and as she attached her consciousness to Jeremiah, she could feel what he was doing, how he was doing it... and something else. She broke off with a gasp and walked back to the back room, and found it almost empty.
Flo said, “Are you...” She nodded, and rasped, “Protein. He’s going to need protein...and calcium.”
Flo opened the fridge and grabbed a handful of canned nutritional shakes. “These.”
Scully handed Tyler to Flo and took the drinks. “Get everyone ready to leave. If the rebels found us, the enemy may not be far behind....”
Flo nodded and took Tyler out to the bus.
Scully came back, and opened a can and held it up to Krycek’s lips. Jeremiah nodded at her and she could feel, as she brushed against him, them stealing protein directly as it slid down his throat. More, she could feel....
...and she felt the swirl of faces and mental images those words wrapped around. She picked up another can and tipped it into his mouth and thought, brave.
She shook her head, and thought, helpusall thank you.
The aliens stepped back from him, and he reached down and grabbed another protein drink and gulped it down, then the last one. Then he thought, forgive? and the tearing breaking sorrowguilt wrapped around those words and she saw Luis Cardinale shoot her sister, saw her sister fall and felt the ripping in his soul as he realized that an innocent had fallen. Sosorrysosorrynevercanfix.
Tears ran down her cheeks and she touched his face and sent son, baby, husband freedom never could have done it thank you forgiven.
He opened his eyes and stared at her. “You don’t have to...”
She shook her head. “Dammit, Krycek. You punish yourself enough. I don’t have to.”
Then she felt a rising fear and felt it become her own, and the rebels said in her head, clear as clear, RUN NOW.
Krycek pressed his prosthetic arm into her hands, and said, “Go. You might need what’s in there. I’ll be all right.”
She ran, Jeremiah slipping back into Joe as he followed her outside into the evening, and they climbed into the bus. It was in motion before they were in seats. They saw a light over the shop, but it disappeared as they sped off into the darkness.
6:30 p.m. Chula Vista
Mulder sat in the last house, not far from Tif’s, watching the little bag of fluid empty into a baby’s arm. There was a knock on the door. The foster father went to answer it, and Mulder turned to look, and felt his heart drop to his shoes as he recognized the posture and uniforms of police officers. *We were almost done. Why now?*
“Mr. Harrod?” the father asked. “There’s a detective here who wants to ask you some questions...”
Mulder closed his eyes, and then said, “I’ll come out there to talk.”
Jessie’s eyes widened and she watched him go.
Mulder recognized Kresge, but Kresge didn’t seem to recognize him. “Mr. Harrod?” Kresge asked. “I need you to come down to the station to answer some questions.”
Mulder looked back at the house and said, “Could it be in a few minutes? We’re almost done here...”
“I’m going to need your friends to come with us,” the detective said firmly.
“She’s busy at the moment, but maybe in an hour...” Mulder tried.
Jessie appeared behind him. “It’s okay. You had questions, officer?”
“If you will come with us...”
Mulder pointed at the van. “Really, we’ve got three more people down there. You planning on squeezing all of us in?”
Kresge pointed down the street. “See those other two cars? I’m not worried about it.”
Mulder sighed. *Fate of the world in my hands, and he wants to talk. Okay.* He gave Kresge an annoyed smile. “Lead on.”
The guys got out of the van slowly, looking at Mulder. Kresge said, “Search the van.”
Mulder said, “May I see your warrant? Probable cause?”
“Really,” Mulder said. “You wouldn’t want things getting tossed out for procedural issues, would you?”
Frohike said, “Actually, I don’t mind if they search it.”
Kresge looked from one to the other. “Who owns the van?”
Frohike said, “A multinational corporation, of which I am an officer. I authorize the search.”
Mulder and Kresge stared at him, then Kresge shook his head and said, “Search it, boys.”
The Gunmen, Jessie, and Mulder followed Kresge to the waiting police cars.”
Frohike pulled out a cell phone, and Kresge nabbed it. “I don’t think so.”
Frohike glared. “I get a phone call.”
Kresge said, “If I’m arresting you, you can have a phone call. I’m not arresting you yet, if you’re coming willingly.”
“I should still get a phone call,” Frohike said.
“I’ll give it back to you when we’re done,” Kresge said. “Last thing I need is for you people to call in your goons.”
Mulder managed not to laugh.*These are the goons.*
7:00 p.m. On the Bus
Scully sat on the bus, staring into the middle distance, feeling the swirl of knowing and trying not to think about Lucita in flames, crumbling with her baby... She failed, and leaned forward with her arms on the back of the seat in front of her, and started to cry.
She heard/felt Tyler say, “Mama!” but it felt very far away. A hand on her shoulder, and Jeremiah was there, weathered skin and white hair and centuries of grief in his eyes. She turned, leaned against him and sobbed.
He didn’t say anything, but she could feel grief gone helpless and she wasn’t sure who it was from, her or Jeremiah. She sat up and asked him, “How am I going to tell him?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know.”
She looked out the window. “Where are we going, anyway?”
He said, “Flo says we’re heading east, to a rendezvous point. We’re going to transfer you, Maria and Tyler to another vehicle, and send the rest of the girls on their way. We’ll take you back into town. The plan is for you to head by foot into Tijuana, and meet our contact there.”
“But Mulder...” she said, a look of horror growing on her face.
“Would kill me if I let you get captured or killed waiting for him. You just pulled a massive heist, and dealt the appeasers a crippling blow. We need you as far away as you can get in that new skin of yours, as soon as possible. I just wish I had time and energy to heal you the rest of the way... but I’m as tired as my kind can get right now.” He gave a sorry smile.
She closed her eyes and nodded. “She just...”
He said, “I know. And there was not enough left for me to save her... they use that method specifically because of how rapidly it can cause intense damage. I just wish we’d gotten through to them sooner. Do you know what happened?”
“It was Tyler,” she said. “I think he acted as go-between, relaying what I was saying to them. They can see, why can’t they hear?”
“The covering... our ‘eyes’ are not like your eyes. Our surface, no matter what it looks like, is photosensitive across most of our upper region. But the ear coverings... we are so used to hearing with our minds, hearing just is not that important to us, and I do not believe they have bothered making any sort of sound receptor in place of the human ears they cover.”
“You can hear...” she said.
“Of course. We replicate most of your structures with our latticework, and your eardrums are particularly handy for relaying percussive information to our neural network. But they do not bother with all the forms.” He sighed. “More pity that. There is a fundamental disrespect among them for your kind, because you are incapable of our kind of communication. Tyler must have startled them. You will see the next time you meet a clone, that the unformed thoughts of the babies have a lot in common with the droning undercurrent of your average hybrid. I believe they thought the hybridization must have improved, but when Tyler yelled, and he did yell... they realized that he was not hybrid.
“He has a brain structure and an extra neuropeptide form, for lack of a better term, and they are distinct. Looking at him, I can see what the difference was between your brain and his. The first rebel who came in... he is... well, let’s put it this way. Anyone with hands can put a bandage on, no? But it takes a skilled surgeon to sew the skin layers back together so that they don’t scar. I’m not a bad healer. I have a knack. But most of us have that knack. That rebel... he is our equivalent of a doctor. He not only could heal, he could force your brain to grow something that was never there, turn on the cell mechanisms to make what needed to be made, out of whole cloth, as it were. I could never force your brain to do that without assistance, but the doctor, with two others helping...”
“How is it going to be for Mulder, having a telepathic wife and children?” she asked.
“Much the way it was having a telepathic son for you. You will know more than he says, but you can talk back to him. Tyler can’t. Mulder makes very clear thoughts when he wants to. I suspect that the broadcasting is something he’s prepped for. I don’t know about receiving, but I do know that you’re doing pretty well for not being born with it.” Jeremiah smiled. “I don’t think it will ever be as easy or natural for you as it will be for Tyler... but the fact that you are able to make sense of what you feel at all...”
He put out a hand and rested his palm on her head. “He connected the new center to your visual and auditory processing centers... and did an elegant job of it for as fast as he was working.”
“It feels almost like hearing, or seeing, but not...” she said.
He nodded. “Describing it.. your people have no words for it. And our language... we describe it by using it.”
She smiled. “My grandmother would call it kenning. Knowing without rational thought.”
He nodded. “As good a word as any.”
“I want my son,” she said.
He shifted out of
the seat, and let her move up to where
sat with Flo. He reached for her, and Flo let her sit down next to
the carseat, strapped to the seat with a tangle of ropes. She touched
his face and thought, mama is here.
He answered back with a warm feeling that left her breathless, forming into words love you mama lovelovelovelove.
She echoed it back to him, lovelovelovelove.
8:00 p.m. San Diego
Mulder sat alone in the interrogation room, staring at the ‘mirror’ and trying to stay calm. *She’s safe. She’s got to be safe.*
Detective Kresge came into the room and said, “You know, it’s been bugging me all evening. I know you, don’t I?”
“I’m just wondering, Mr. Harrod, exactly how you fit into this. You pop up out of nowhere three weeks ago. You go visit every one of the homes I’ve been monitoring as part of an investigation into SDCISS. Then suddenly the doctor I’ve been investigating vanishs into thin air. And then my main suspects at SDCSS go poof, only there’s this familiar green stain there and they signed into a building and never signed back out, and is this ringing any bells?”
Mulder looked up at Kresge, and said, “You know? I was asked by a social worker to tell her why there were so many abandoned and dead babies in San Diego County. Which would explain why I was in all those places.”
“It doesn’t explain why a doctor would simply disappear. Or why there’s green goo down in National City.”
Mulder shrugged. “Maybe they got spooked by your investigation.”
“Spooked. You a fan of crime shows, Mr. Harrod?”
“You’ve got more than what, a hundred dead children over how many years? And you’re looking at me when I showed up three weeks ago?” Mulder shook his head. “I don’t think you’d like the answer if I did give it to you.”
“Try me. But first, tell me what you were doing in the hospital tonight. That guard had a concussion.” Kresge said.
“I didn’t hit him,” Mulder said.
“You didn’t answer the question.”
“I was trying to find my wife,” Mulder said. “I told him that.”
“So that warrants a concussion?” Kresge asked.
“I told you, I didn’t hit him. Someone else did.”
“Who?” Kresge asked.
“I ran as soon as I saw him.” Mulder said.
Kresge frowned at him, then squinted. “How long have you had that beard?” He put his feet up on the desk.
Mulder blinked. “I started shaving when I was 13.”
“Yes, but when did you stop?” Kresge asked, tapping his pencil against his head.
Mulder shrugged. “Not sure, why?”
Kresge stared at him for a long time. “You ever met a pretty little redheaded woman? Won’t take no for an answer? Likes to wear fuck-me pump, short hair, blue eyes?”
“My wife’s a redhead, but her eyes are brown, her hair reaches her ass, and she wears flats,” Mulder said.
“Funny, because you look kind of like this woman’s partner. An FBI agent. Ring any bells?”
“I’m a sociologist.” Mulder said. “I was trying to solve the same problem you were trying to solve.”
“Do you have any insight?” Kresge asked.
Mulder rolled his eyes. *Fuck it.* “You mean the part where the same two nurses were on duty every time a baby showed up at USCD?” he said. “The part where the ones who lived past a few hours got sicker and sicker and usually in the same three or four ways? The fact that almost all of the surviving children can read minds? Sounds like someone’s been jumping the line in the science department and playing fast and loose with kids’ lives.”
“Read minds. You’re not serious.” Kresge laughed.
“Detective Kresge. John. Can I call you John?” Mulder asked. “I just became the foster parent for a little boy. What that little boy did not know, could not have known, is that I am actually his biological father. You know what that little boy said to me, soon after he met me?”
“Call me Detective Kresge, and no I don’t know,” he said.
“He called me Da. Then I thought I might like to have my wife meet him, his mother. And do you know what he said then?”
Kresge raised an eyebrow.
“He said, ‘Mama.’ Not because I told him, but because I thought it. Now are you going to keep an open mind, or should I call for my lawyer?”
Kresge narrowed his eyes. “Consider my mind open.”
“You know, don’t you, about Emily Sims.”
Kresge nodded, alert.
“You know that a woman showed up claiming to be her mother, despite never having been pregnant. You know that woman showed up after hearing a phone call that could not have happened, told to ‘help her.’ How do you suppose that child was created?” Mulder asked.
“Is there some reason you’re not telling me who you are?” Kresge asked.
“Bright boy. I knew you’d catch on eventually,” Mulder said. “Who’s behind the curtain?”
“No one.” Kresge said.
“Don’t bullshit me. You know that I know that you know that I know that there is someone back there taking notes. What I want to know is how far you can trust him. Or her,” Mulder said. “Hell, bring them in.”
Kresge looked back and then gave a little jerk to his head. A moment later a stout blonde woman came in, and sat down. “Mind reading babies, eh? Got a live one, John.”
“You might want to listen, Detective,” Mulder said. “I’m only going to say this all once, and you’ll be so disappointed if you miss the good part.”
She raised an eyebrow and sat down.
“In any event, you know who I am, and I’m going to tell you why I can’t say. Then you’re going to let me go,” Mulder said.
“Go on,” said Kresge. “This had better be good.”
“You remember that you shot a man who bled green, correct?” Mulder said.
“If you compare a sample of the slime you found at that nursing home with the slime you found in SDCSS, you will find they are one and the same. Well, not quite the same. One of these splotches is not like the others. But close enough. In any event, the man and the woman you were suspicious of, they were, in fact, complicit in the deaths of approximately 200 children. Maybe more, I’m not sure how long each of the players was involved. They were responsible as well for the deaths of several foster and adoptive parents. And they were working with quite a large group of associates. A shocking number, really.”
“I know about the doctor. Who else?” Kresge said.
“The nurses. Two more doctors who looked JUST like Dr. Calderon—I’m sure you caught the resemblance already. A number of men set as surveillance. And a large international shadow government conspiracy.” Mulder finished.
Kresge sighed. “I was afraid you were going to say something like that.”
He walked to the door and told a man outside, “Take him back to the holding area.”
Mulder frowned. “I want a phone call.”
“Don’t we all,” said Kresge. “I’m going to call the FBI, see why you might be here.”
“Let me save you the trouble,” Mulder said, “You can call my boss. He’s in town. And hey, what ever happened to keeping an open mind?”
Kresge walked away down the hall, shaking his head.
9:00 p.m. Holding Cell
Frohike stood up the minute Mulder walked into the cell. “Are they going to let us out? Did you call Skinner?”
“No, and no, and Jesus fucking Christ, Frohike. Did they grill you?”
Frohike shook his head. “They’re just holding us now. They can’t do that, can they?”
“Twenty four hours. How are you guys?” Mulder asked.
Frohike looked back at Langly and Byers. “We’re okay. Jessie’s over there.”
Mulder looked across to another cell, where a tired looking Jessie waved her hand. He sighed. “My bet is they’ll not manage to get anyone who can tell them anything until tomorrow morning. Best to get as comfortable as you can, and wait for Skinner to figure it out.”
9:30 p.m. San Ysidro
Scully wore Joshua on her back in the backpack, and Maria had a more conventional backpack on her, filled with snacks. Flo handed them packets of documentation, renaming Maria from Maria Teck to Maria Cervantes, Scully to Anna Miller, and Tyler to Joshua Miller, all American citizens, all with tourist papers, passports and birth certificates, the photos taken as they stepped off the rainbow bus.
“You won’t need them,” Flo said, “Going into Mexico. But you’ll need them when you decide to come back. Oh, and at the bottom there....”
Scully blinked when she saw her FBI badge and her real ID. “Is that safe?” she asked.
“In a pinch... Put it in the backpack, in the hidden pocket at the bottom. You might need it,” Flo said.
Scully looked at the picture on her new passport and the picture on her old badge, and sighed. *So far away.*
“I want to call Skinner,” she said.
“We already did. I told them what happened. He’s working on finding out what happened to your husband right now.” Flo squeezed Scully’s hand. “We’ll put your husband in touch with our people as soon as we make contact.”
Scully looked up at Joe, back to his younger self. “Can you come with us?”
Joe hesitated, then shook his head. “I wish I could. But I need to know what happened with the other children, and I need to contact the rebels. You’ll be okay. You’re the strongest human I’ve ever known.”
She fought back tears and said, “I don’t feel very strong right now. I want my husband. Hell, I want my mommy.” *God, Mulder, where are you?*
“Take care of your kids,” Flo said. “You’ll be okay. And we’ll have your mom meet you in Oaxaca.”
She checked her ID, and settled Joshua on her back. He leaned against her shoulder, and she felt a sleepy da? from him.
She bit her lips, watched her friends get on another bus, and looked at Maria. “Are you ready?”
Maria nodded. “Will I get to see my mother soon?”
Scully nodded. “I hope we'll both see our mothers soon.”
She took Maria’s
hand, and they walked down the long sidewalk, up through the
Scully looked back for a moment, then took a deep breath and walked over the border.
to Chapter 28